CALL TO PRAYER: His everlasting arms
EDITOR'S NOTE: Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, has issued a call to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013. Baptist Press will carry First-Person articles during the year encouraging Southern Baptists to pray in specific areas and for specific needs as we petition the Father for spiritual awakening.
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Revival and restoration will begin when we lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus. Most of us ministry leaders, if not all of us, are exhausted from providing our finite arms to hold up the flock. Destruction, devastation and disasters are all around. The load of ministry responsibility is getting heavy. We are sacrificed beyond our means.
With strategies, gimmicks and games as their focus, ministry leaders have neglected to disciple the flock to withstand this level of warfare. Yes, this is warfare, greater than anything we could have imagined. We invariably arrive at a place called wit's end. It is at this dark place, wit's end, where the Lord Jesus starts His greatest works.
Nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
We know that times past were darker than the ones we're living in today -- consider the plights of Abraham, Noah, Lot, Joseph, Esther, Peter, James and John.
Dark times always require deliberate, focused and sincere praying. We have been trained in the church to fight on our feet and in our seats more than on our knees. The Word of God states, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17). Go to any church in America today, no matter the size or budget, and you will find a small number of saints in organized prayer meetings.
Many saints are trained in the school of disaster on how to bend their knees in times of crisis. Few know the value of maintaining this posture, whether prostrate or just in heart due to physical limitations.
He leads and restores (Psalm 23)
The 23rd Psalm has nestled within it the stanzas, He leads me beside still waters (during times of troubled waters); He restores my soul (after times of destruction); He leads me in the paths of righteousness (when I lose my way). Our personal disasters occur when we as saints go outside of the will of God.
I am so thankful for the infinite everlasting arms, which are referred to in Deuteronomy 33:27: The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Although as ministry leaders we know our limitations, many times our bodies will overrule our minds to stretch us beyond human capacity. We experience exhaustion beyond measure, which sometimes tempts us to quit.
As leaders, if we choose to make prayer our priority before we launch out into the deep, we would require little or no need for physical or spiritual revival. All of the aforementioned heroes of the faith know very well of our present plight. Their stories of how they triumphed and were restored through the power of prayer remain forever etched in our minds.
As leaders, when we are restored in our fellowship with God through prayer, revival takes place within us. It will spill over on those around us.
Make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)
Matthew 28:19 will come alive in our congregations. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Just as it is written in Jeremiah 20:9, His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. We are like rockets headed for a specific target. The smoke trails we leave behind are for those who see us launched. It serves as an invitation, which says, "Come follow me to the promised place of still waters, restored souls, and righteous paths, even in this valley of death."
A special commendation goes to all the pastors' wives for persevering in one of the darkest moments of this present generation. My travels have revealed all the pain, depression, wickedness and disaster noised in the atmosphere. The Good News is, there is not only "a light at the end of the tunnel," but I have witnessed the Eternal Light throughout the land.
Then I will hear from heaven (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Although our churches are darkening, with fewer baptisms, less attendance, more divisions and divisiveness, and threats from inside and out, the Kingdom is not compromised and the saints of God are thriving and doing well. Like Joshua and Caleb, I have surveyed the land, and I know as saints we can take the land for Jesus! As pastors' wives, let us join the SBC focus to return our flock to a posture of prayer. And if My people who are called by My name shall humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
As pastors' wives, you help your husbands weekly to lead and guide the flock. Your efforts can sometimes go unnoticed by the saints. While serving the SBC in the capacity of the president's wife, I witnessed your struggles and successes. I encourage you to relax and fall into the arms of Jesus. A grand reward awaits you now and throughout eternity for your untiring service to the Lord!
Thank you for encouraging my husband and me as your servants for the past two years. Our journey consisted of many highs and a few lows. God's hand was both evident and obvious. I can almost feel the coolness of "the still waters." My soul has new life. The righteous path is ever so clear. We were revived, on our knees, leaning on the everlasting arms.
Elizabeth Luter is the wife of Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared in the summer 2014 issue of SBC LIFE. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).